Where we've been, and how to eat well when you feel like absolute rubbish...for months on end.Read More
Everyone loves an excuse to indulge in a new set of pyjamas and other cozy essentials (especially this time of year), and so I thought it'd be fun to quickly catalogue some of my faves, as well as a thing or two that can help make bedtime a bit more fun.
Part of the appeal of sleep as a health and beauty aid is that it is free, simple and, if you are getting enough, enjoyable. So as we learn more about why sleep matters and how much it can do for us (which is really incredible; if you haven't listened to our podcast that tells you a bit more about why, you can do so here or here), I hope we won't try to make this more complicated than it is.
The fact that so many of us ARE sleep-deprived, however, means that we really could be doing this better. And it's easier to prioritise something that you think is fun and rewarding, or that you have invested in (see also, investing in cute workout clothes).
So with that mind, here are a few sleep-related toys and joys that actually work to help you on your way to dreamland, and make the whole winding-down to bed process more appealing than everything else that's clamouring for your attention. Watch out for the best of PJs in our next post.
Sleep Aids & Tools
From Left to Right
Natural Calm magnesium supplement- this is far & away my best sleep tool. Magnesium is a proven sleep aid, & this sugar-free supplement makes me drowsy quickly. I take 1 large dose 40 minutes before I want to sleep and it WORKS. LOVE it.
The travel version - these sachets are great for the plane & help both sleep & digestion, which can be sluggish after flying.
Epsom salts - magnesium can be absorbed through the skin, so pop a large handful into a warm bath & get ready to feel relaxed & sleepy. Maybe not for every night, but you can also file this one under IT WORKS.
The best face mask - essential when mornings start early (so not this time of year, but highly relevant in summer). Also great for flying; this version does crowd the eyelid so there's no pressure. Comfy & effective.
From Left to Right
Pukka Night Time tea - a perennial favourite for a reason; it's not stimulating but is comforting.
Sleepytime Extra - the American sleep tea. I can't say I like this one as much, but some people swear by it!
Thisworks Deep Sleep Pillow Spray - I received this as part of a new mom gift pack. The idea is that the calming scent of lavender will send you to sleep. It didn't always do that for me, but it definitely helped with new mom anxiety.
Badger Balm Night Night Balm - I actually prefer a balm to a room spray because you can control the strength of the scent better. This one is really nice and organic, and apparently ok for kids too!
This one comes in interesting scents and pretty packaging (there's a copper shade too). Candlelight is soft and flattering; definitely gets you in the mood for bed! Soy candles don't emit the same acrid smoke as paraffin candles and are more eco-friendly too.
We are such stuff as dreams are made on...but what ingredients make up a good night's sleep?. This is an area where you can really geek out and get all tech-y about the best kind of mattress, the most relaxing music to listen to (sorry, but no), and the exact order your bedtime routine should take. That's cool, but not really our style. Ditto for wearable sleep monitors; I personally don't feel like I need super specific stats on my sleep patterns and activities (!). I'll know I've gotten a good nights' sleep because...I slept, and I don't feel tired the next day. I actually think devices like this can be damaging; what is so pernicious about tracking technology is that it excuses us from really engaging with ourselves and monitoring how we feel. And with everyone looking for painless ways to unplug and digitally detox, this seems like an obvious place to start...take a break from tech while you are unconscious - it couldn't be easier, right? Finally, sleep monitors may not be that reliable. Nevertheless, some people live for this stuff - if that is you, go for it.
Ultimately, as with everything related to health, there is no magic pill that will guarantee a night of awesome sleep (seriously, Ambien will make you do crazy things (starting at 5:27).). I am going to state up front that I think the number 1 thing you can do to sleep better is just spend an hour before bed in your PJs reading a book (free easy and fun - yay!) BUT let's be real: none of us are doing this on the daily. So when you are struggling to fall and/or stay asleep, it can be helpful to have a sense of some tricks you can try to improve the situation. Therefore, welcome to the first post in a series dedicated to briefly cataloguing the things that are supposed to help and hurt our ability to fall and stay asleep. Keeping with our holistic theme, we'll look at everything you can do from how you design your room to how you design your day, touching on diet, movement mentality & more. We'll conclude with what to do when you've gone ahead and done it - had dinner at 10 PM plus
half a bottle of rosé (I'm still nostalgic for summer, clearly).
We'll start with food, because it turns out that there's a world beyond warm milk and dry turkey to prime your body for your best bedtime. Some of the key chemical components of good sleep are calcium, magnesium, B6, and the famous tryptophan. The concept though isn't to eat foods containing these nutrients immediately before bed (though if you are going to midnight snack, these are better options) but to work them into your diet on a general basis. Nothing groundbreaking here I'm afraid; healthy food is healthy food, but if you are struggling with sleep, it might be worth checking to see if you can include more of these guys in your meals.
Melatonin is the hormone released by your body when you sleep, and a recent study has shown that drinking 2 glasses daily of tart cherry juice (which contains melatonin) helped with sleeplessness. Interesting, but, given that most of us would probably have to go on a bit of expedition to find tart cherry juice, and that, for all it's "tartness", it still quite sugar-laden, I would class this under one to try only if you're really struggling. Some people find melatonin tablets helpful, but in my experience they don't promote deep sleep and I've recently been told they can be habit forming, so sadly that is another potential shortcut I won't be taking.
More appealing beverages may be warm milk (I guess - yuck) and classic herbal teas like chamomile and lavender. Again, not exactly novel, but there are some ranges that do more interesting blends these days, like this one.
The list of what not to eat is obvious and boring - caffeine in the afternoon, heavy or sugary foods late at night (boo) and too much
fun booze all compromise our sleep. Welcome to the world of adult living. What's more interesting is what to do when you've done these things and still want to try to sleep well. That's coming up in another post - check back in soon. Here's a little preview: befriend some mamas, or invest in some pedialyte.